Schools feature prominently in Japanese cartoons, or anime, and Japanese comics, otherwise known as manga. Some of the most popular series nowadays are slice of life stories that center around characters that are mostly students and their activities while in school. These schools serve as a fundamental setting, as well as sometimes being able to function as a character in itself that helps define some of the main characters and events of a story.
Most people who have watched a ton of anime will notice one thing about the depiction of schools in various series: they all look practically the same. One white structure that is wide and has a clock atop the central structure. Of course, some depictions are different. But, essentially, it's really the stories and the narrative and how the school is utilized as a setting that makes it a worthwhile consideration.
Iconic schools hold some of the best scenes and memories that fans have of a particular series. For example, there's Furinkan High School from Ranma ½, where much hilarity and action ensues in many episodes. A more recent example is the school in Lucky Star, home to the slice of life anime that showcases a group of young girls that reflect not only the culture of the youth, but also the culture of Japan as a whole.
And then who can forget the shifting and transforming school in Raijin-Oh? That school housed three powerful robots, and the sequence that shows the school making way to launch the robots is still one of the most memorable scenes from a fan's standpoint. In this sense, the school as a setting acts not only as a place where the characters do most of their activities, but also functions as a tool used by those same characters.
From the title itself, you can tell that Cromartie High is an anime that is centered around a school. In this anime, the school (Cromartie) acts as a character in itself, which gives the various characters a sort of umbrella personality. It defines the expectations of the viewer and also shapes the perception the viewer has of the reality within which the events of the series unfold.
The school in the recently concluded anime Toradora, Ohashi Junior High, is practically the only setting apart from the houses of the main characters. The events of the series are shaped by the school in many aspects, such as a field trip that leads to revelations and a confrontation held in one of the school's rooms. The school acts as a witness to both the anguish and the happiness of the show's characters. In the end, the school provides an all-important device for concluding the series: the leading female character hides inside the locker where the brooms are kept, and the male lead character finds her there and finally utters his “I love you.”
Majority of the characters in the anime series Honey and Clover are students. What quite sets it apart from other school-based anime and manga is that the students here are not young graders or high school students.
In any case, schools truly prove to be important elements in any anime or manga that has them. They provide not only a setting, but also a permanent fixture that can sometimes be an important pivot point for characterization as well as an objective correlative for the lives of the characters in those series.